Sugarloaf Ski Legend John Christie Dies

As the ski world changes, we remember who and what got us here in the first place

Editor’s note: John Christie, 79, author, former general manager of Sugarloaf and member of the Maine Ski Hall of Fame, died May 7, 2016, of natural causes, while working at Camden Hills State Park. The following article was first published in the February 2016 (44.6) issue of POWDER. It was included in a feature on skiing’s pioneers. PHOTO: Jamie Walter

Sometimes, late spring at a ski resort can get a little boring, even if you’re the GM. So, on the occasional April day in the late ’60s, John Christie, who served as general manager at Sugarloaf from 1963 to 1968, would head to the bottom of a steep, bumped-up pitch along Tote Road, the resort’s longest run. “We’d sit there and watch people taking eggbeaters, because we never groomed the moguls off,” says Christie. “We just didn’t have the machinery to do that.”

From the time Amos Winter and friends cut the first trail on Sugarloaf Mountain in 1950, there has been plenty the Carrabassett Valley-based resort learned to do without. “I was GM during a decade that preceded two important innovations—snowmaking and grooming,” says Christie. “All we did at Sugarloaf was hack out the trails and open them up—we thought that was enough. We didn’t know anything about grooming, so when we wanted to scarify the ice on the beginner slope, we’d take our Tucker snowcat out and drag a bedspring around.”

But they did know something about partying. The November 1969 issue of Playboy highlighted Carrabassett Valley as one of the epicenters of East Coast ragers. “I was there at the birth of the Red Stallion Saloon,” says Christie. “A couple guys from Waterville bought an old barn and turned it into a bar, and they also built what was called Carrabassett Village, where they sold little A-frame packages for $900 a piece.”

The combination of a late-night bar and affordable digs made for many rowdy weekends at the Red Stallion, often ushered along by a bartender named Peter Roy—AKA “Captain America.” Roy once made a run down Narrow Gauge, site of a 1971 World Cup race, inside a refrigerator.

“The Red Stallion became famous, and eventually infamous,” says Christie. “One of the best stories involves Peter, who was bartending there one night. What few guestrooms they had were located right above the dance floor, and the place had no insulation, so it was tremendously noisy, and people staying there could never sleep. One of the irate guests came down about 2 a.m. looking to complain about the noise. He yelled out, ‘Who’s in charge here?’ And Roy replied, ‘Nobody! Isn’t it obvious?’ That was just how the Red Stallion operated.”